Chapter 23 Consequences

A/N: I'm very sorry this took so long but RL has really taken a toll on my ability to keep up with this story. My story suggestion is It All Starts With a Dance by chris400ad.

A/N2: This chapter was partially beta'd by Dorothea Greengrass. However, I find myself in need of a new beta so if anyone wants to volunteer, PM me.

What's done cannot be undone. – Shakespeare (MacBeth)

Narcissa was shocked by the floo call she'd received from Dumbledore, part of her wanted to curse the fates and another part wanted to floo over immediately to protect her only child. With a sigh, she realized neither of them would truly help the situation. She'd go, of course, but first she needed backup if things got sticky so she floo-called her cousin and lord.

As she was waiting for a response from Grimmauld Place, she took a deep breath to calm herself. "Sirius! Thank Merlin! Dumbledore just called; something has happened with Draco! They've called the Aurors!" she said without so much as a greeting when Sirius finally appeared.

At his dumbfounded look, she abruptly realized her total break with decorum. "Milord, sorry, I…"

"Slow down, Cissy, there's no need to apologize. Did he say anything about Harry?"

"No. Only Draco and I'm sure he would have called you directly if it involved Harry. Could you come…?"

"Of course. I'll floo to Dumbledore's office as soon as I can. See you soon."

She was greatly relieved by his tolerant response and was very grateful that he would back her on this. She took another deep breath to steady herself and then as calmly as she could manage, she flooed to join her son.

When she stepped out of the floo at the headmaster's office, her gaze at once fell upon her baby, huddled in one of those tacky chairs that Dumbledore seemed to prefer. Her heart nearly stopped. He looked so lost and alone. She rushed over to hug him, not caring who was there to see it.

Sirius arrived almost immediately after her. She let go of her son and greeted her cousin with the gratitude she felt. As soon as she had finished, she returned to her son to support him in whatever this situation was.

Her heart nearly stopped a second time when Dumbledore's question revealed that Draco had had such a dangerous magical artefact with him. How could he, after everything they had talked about? At least, he'd done nothing intentionally to harm anyone although it didn't look good that he'd originally bought it with an intent to do so.

She watched the reactions of the other occupants of the room to see how things might be going next and to capitalise on any opportunity there might be to help her only child. The Aurors kept a professional attitude. It was hard to gauge their assessment of the situation. Dumbledore looked concerned while Snape was so forcefully stoic it was obvious that he was hiding some reaction.

Her cousin's reaction was the most important to her. Would this incident drive him to retreat from his support? He was becoming skilled at hiding his feelings, so it was hard to get a read on him. However, it was obvious he was taking this seriously. There was also a certain degree of coolness towards Dumbledore. Now, that was interesting.

How to use that information? The Slytherin inside of her was quick to ponder that. No, that was not the right way to go about this. The welfare of her and her only son depended on her cousin so supporting him must be paramount in her motivations. When she had a chance, she would look for weaknesses of Dumbledore's that she might help her cousin exploit.

Her anxiety eased the more she heard. It became obvious that Draco had not intentionally harmed anyone although it was also obvious that he was guilty of the horribly idiotic decision to bring a dangerous, cursed object to the school. A look between Dumbledore and the lead Auror confirmed that the legal issue was minimal and she breathed a sigh of relief. A quick, quiet conversation between Dumbledore and Severus followed. She studied their body language and they seemed relaxed, hopefully school discipline would not be severe.

When Dumbledore announced his decision, Draco looked so stunned by the outcome that it seemed he got the message with difficulty. She'd take him home and he'd have plenty of time to regain his bearings. She'd also have to straighten him out about keeping her informed and using his intelligence for something other than making rash decisions. Honestly, was this all intended as penance for her own questionable deeds? Well, she could ponder that some other time, her son had to be her focus now.

Once they'd taken their leave, she took him home and led him to a chair so she could talk to him. She was a little worried about him being so quiet and seemingly withdrawn. As she sat across from him, she saw he was looking everywhere but at her and she wasn't going to stand for it.

"Draco Lucius Malfoy."

His eyes got big for a moment and he huddled a little in the chair but he did sit up and face her although he wouldn't look her in the eye but it was good enough for now.

"I must remind you that despite the disgrace that your father has brought upon us, we are still descended from a powerful, most ancient House, the House of Black. We will comport ourselves accordingly."

He corrected his posture completely and although his eyes seemed a bit unsure, he did look her in the eyes finally.

"I will do all in my power to make you an official member of the House but it is not my decision. You must impress my cousin and you won't do it with your previous behaviour."

She had wanted to impress upon him more how important it was for him to confide in her but she could see in his eyes that he wasn't ready, she'd have to wait. She dismissed him to his room and gave Draco space until dinner although she wasn't sure that was wise. The last time she'd given him space, he had snuck off to buy that cursed thing. However, since this cottage had only one floo point and she had remained in that room, such a thing would not happen this time. Besides, Draco seemed so overcome by events she doubted he was motivated enough for any more foolish moves.

He was quiet through dinner and lowered his head in shame when she had gently admonished him for not coming to her for help and hiding the cursed artefact instead when he'd realized the mistake of his planned course of action. She told him that she would have gladly helped him dispose of it safely, perhaps even sell it back to Burke even if they took a loss on it, which was likely but a far better outcome than what they now faced.

Draco listened to her gentle admonishments in silence, although it was not the silence of opposition. She knew the difference, his defeated body language gave him away. He said he wanted to go to bed early so she let him go, hoping that he would ponder her words and come out wiser for all of this.

Draco had been quiet in his room and the house elf finished cleaning and disappeared to wherever house elves went when not working. She contemplated how to help her son in the long term but ended up with only sketchy plans until she knew her cousin's decision on her son.

She realised it was late when she attempted to look out the window at the normally beautiful scenery and saw only blackness. She shivered as if that black void was a vision of the future. If only she was sure Draco could be a Black, then she knew they'd be able to prosper. As she sat there alone as usual in this place, she felt even more solitary and abandoned. She decided to seek her bed before she was caught up in her own melancholy and might face a sleepless night.

When Arcturus Black had still been alive, Tiberius Ogden had been a frequent visitor of the Black Manor house. His visits to the town home occupied by Orion and Walburga had never been frequent. Walburga had been too fanatical even for his taste, not to mention boring and repetitive. He had been there often enough though and after a little effort, he had found it again. Unfortunately, the wards that had previously welcomed him now seemed primed to destroy him if he attempted to enter. That was an unexpected and bothersome change.

He'd known of the Black talent with wards but he had a new respect for their family magic now that he faced a formidable obstacle. This wasn't merely talent in action though as there must be ley lines here, which would explain their curious choice to live among Muggles, despite being such anti-Muggle fanatics. This combination of talent and raw power made it impossible for him, or anyone he might hire, to try a frontal assault.

He considered an attack with Fiendfyre. The collateral damage to the Muggle neighbourhood was quite acceptable to him. However, the wards were so powerful that the attack might not even work as he wanted. The attention it would bring from the Ministry was also not acceptable. He'd already kicked a hornet's nest by having Fudge killed under their noses. He might not like the interim Minister but he did respect her cunning and determination, if he gave her too much incentive, she could make things difficult for him.

He shot a last glare at the house. It was barely visible to him from the park across from it, safe under his disillusionment charm. As much as he would love to deal with the Lord Black quickly, it was not possible. However, there was more than one way to slaughter the sheep. If the interim minister remained unenthusiastic about retaining her position, he could very well be the next Minister for Magic. Yes, he could afford to play the long game with the new Lord Black. A smirk appeared on his lips, he very much looked forward to that contest.

Stuart Little had learned to be tough in his life. He'd fought his way all through school because of the many jokes about his name. Yes, he might be on the short side, but he was broad and strong and men had learned the hard way that he wouldn't put up with anyone else's shite. That damned children's book and movie hadn't helped either. He was reasonably content with his lot now. He had an honest job as a prison guard and the other guards and all but the stupidest of the inmates knew better than to mess with him. He did everything he could to maintain that reputation.

His only annoyances now were the whiners and lazy slugs he was saddled with and Dursley was both. He was currently storming his way towards Dursley's cell to find out why he was absent from roll call before breakfast. As he neared the cell he bellowed, "Dursley! You'd better have your fat arse out of that bed!"

He got to the already unlocked door and yanked it open. Dursley still laid on his cot, the lazy tub of lard and he was preparing to tear him a new one as he came up to him but suddenly shut his mouth. Something about the way Dursley was laying there seemed off and he was awfully still, he didn't even seem to be breathing. Bloody hell, don't tell him that the fat lump is dead! He reached out his hand tentatively to find the man's carotid artery and the moment he touched him he knew he was dead. He was much too cool and he couldn't find a pulse. This shift was now officially shot to hell and he had a lot of paperwork to do. Why couldn't the fat lump have died on someone else's shift?

Harry entered the common room after classes and idly noted the twins looking at an old piece of parchment again, one of them pointing something else out to the other. He mentally shook his head wondering what an old piece of parchment could contain that would interest them so much given that he'd seen them with it before. Then the galleon dropped, the Marauder's map would interest them greatly and that parchment certainly matched Sirius' description. It had been confiscated by Filch so it could still be in Hogwarts and if anyone could nick it back and figure out how to use it, it would be those two.

He had hesitated during his realisation, drawing the attention of Ron, Neville and Hermione but just shrugged off their curious looks and proceeded on to the boy's dorm to put away his books. The possibility of having access to something his father had helped make was irresistible to him, even if he could only see it once. If he was wrong about the parchment, they'd tease him mercilessly but he decided it was worth the risk but how to approach them? Ultimately, he decided to be a Gryffindor and approach them directly.

He went back down while Ron and Neville were still talking but when he saw the twins, they were busy joking around with Lee Jordan and it looked like he'd have to wait. Suddenly Lee headed towards the dorms and the twins settled down and it looked like a promising time to approach them. He stepped in front of them, called upon his courage and said, "What would you two think if I said 'I solemnly swear that I am up to no good'?"

Their twin smirks flickered momentarily as shock flashed across their faces. After a silent look at each other, one responded, "So you overheard us say that, it's just something we like to say."

Harry leaned in and spoke even more quietly, "The Marauder's map must have come in handy for you two."

That broke their facades as they gave each other a longer look before turning serous expressions towards him. With a somewhat forced calmness, the other asked, "What do you know about it?"

Harry's excitement rose as he realized that he'd been right but he did his best to keep an even demeanour as he still had to convince them to show it to him. "I know who they are, do you?"

They reacted by moving apart, pulling him into the sofa they were on but that was awkward as they also had to turn him around to sit. While he was still trying to recover his wits from their unexpected move, he saw one of them murmur a spell and he was suddenly between two very intent pranksters, which was a bit intimidating although he tried not to show it. In unison, they said, "Tell us."

This wasn't the reaction he'd expected at all but he had something they wanted so he knew he could make a deal with them. "I'll tell you what I can if I get to try the map."

They both leaned forward to look at each other in front of him and the silent communication seemed a bit unnerving to him. They sat back and one of them said, "Convince us you know the real story about the map and we'll lend it to you."

He was elated that he'd get what he wanted but found himself a bit stumped as to how to prove he knew the real story without revealing Moony, which he doubted that Remus would appreciate. What could he tell them that couldn't have been him just getting a glimpse of the map? He still had no good idea of what to say so started with the basics.

"It was created by Prongs, Padfoot, Moony and Wormtail to help them with their pranks while they were here. It was confiscated by Filch before they graduated."

Harry had been looking at the twin to his right when the one to the left said, "That was partially convincing, do you have anything else?"

He hadn't expected them to be so cautious so he was momentarily at a loss but he was quite willing to throw one of them under the bus. "Wormtail was the one who got caught with it. He's an Animagus and could turn into a rat. A rat's tail looks like…."

Before he could finish one of them whispered, "a worm." The twins did their silent communication again and Harry hoped to convince them with one more piece of information. "My father was Prongs."

They reacted to that announcement and then exchanged nods, the next thing he knew the one on his right side handed him the parchment. "That makes this your legacy then, it's yours." Then the other one said, "if you could tell us more, that would be nice."

He still didn't feel right about outing Remus but then he realized that Sirius would love the notoriety. "Padfoot is Sirius Black."

As they looked at each other with chagrin, one began "He was right there…" and the other ended it with "… and we had no idea!"

Harry was startled by a voice from behind him. "Are you Okay, mate?"

He turned to see Ron giving a somewhat concerned look and then glancing at his older brothers as if assessing the situation.

One of the twins cancelled the spell and spoke up. "No worries, Ronniekins. We were just giving your mate something that belongs to him."

Harry nodded his thanks to the twins as he slipped the map into his pocket. There were too many others around for him to tell his friends about his new acquisition at that moment but he'd definitely be sharing the news as soon as he could.

Since Cyrus' return from work was normally quite predictable, he was a little surprised that nobody was around to meet him when he arrived. After checking a few rooms, he was about to call out for someone when Mipsy suddenly appeared, wringing her hands over her large belly. He immediately knew that something was wrong, Mipsy was usually quite cheerful.

"Mistress got some news that Mistress did not like. Mistress is being destroying many targets in the practice room."

That was not good, she only did that when she was furious about something and he was very glad it was some post that had set her off, not something he had done. "Do you know what news she got?"

"No, Master. It is being by the banishing box."

Mipsy popped away and he made his way to the banishing box. He saw a note on the box and something on the floor so he read the note first. It was from the Muggleborn private detective that he'd referred for her use against the Dursleys and it only asked if there were any new instructions. Since that would not set her off, he summoned the paper from the floor and saw it was a Muggle newspaper clipping of the obituary of one Vernon Dursley. Now he understood, she'd wanted him to suffer for as long as Harry had suffered and now, he was out of her reach forever.

Delaying would not improve things at all so he walked down to the practice room and even through the wards, he could hear some powerful spells. He hesitated a moment as surprising her might not go well for him but he really needed to offer what comfort he could. He opened the door slowly and saw her hurling spells at what was left of the targets and absolutely pulverizing them.

She soon had nothing left to destroy so she appeared to pause to catch her breath and she was sweaty; she must have been doing this long enough to tire herself out. He softly called out, "Dear?"

She slowly turned to face him and he saw a mix of anger and frustration on her face. Before he could think of what to say she ran to him and gave him a strong hug while burying her face on his shoulder. He certainly knew what to do about that and hugged her back while trying to mutter encouraging words to her.

After a couple of minutes, she asked in a muffled voice, "You know?"

"Yes, Mipsy told me where to look so I found the note and the obituary."

"He got off too easy." She huffed and finally raised her head to look at him with a very serious expression. "I still have Petunia to deal with. She will pay."

"I have no doubt about that." He despised anyone who would treat a child as she had but it wasn't a good thing to be Petunia Dursley right now. He knew Lannisters take revenge very seriously and sometimes, his wife was still most definitely a Lannister.

Sophronia was fuming while trying not to show it. Her last year at Hogwarts had turned into a shitestorm and so far, there seemed to be little that she could do about it and that had to change. She had conferred with Daphne, who reluctantly admitted that someone had stalked her on the train ride home. Sophronia had assured her she was looking into it, which the other witch seemed to appreciate; but when she congratulated her on building her support within Slytherin, her reaction was not quite as positive and that puzzled her.

For now, she could ignore the Malfoy situation as that seemed to be resolved. However, this stalker really bothered her on several levels. Most importantly, he was making a mockery of her leadership and he had to be put down, hard. On top of that, as a witch she saw this as the typical pureblood misogyny that was unfortunately common in their culture. She would teach him and any other like him that magic was a great equalizer. Being taller or stronger won't help you against an angry witch who knows how to use her wand.

She had realized that considering the Greengrass and Williams issues as separate might not be the right thing to do at all. They both involved the mistreatment of witches and they could be victims of the same wizard. What had happened to Williams could be what he intended for Greengrass, that was the sort of twisted behaviour of some wizards. Greengrass, at least so far, could take care of herself so she resolved to take a closer look at Williams and try to gain some clues there.

Harry sat in their corner of the common room that Harry and his friends frequented as he contemplated a list on a piece of parchment. While his friends were finishing up homework, he was studying his list with occasional glances at the Marauder's Map open in his lap. He'd been attracting too much attention, especially in the great hall as he had compiled his list, so he was now much more discrete when he used the map. He watched the persons on his list and his girlfriend on the map, making sure that if there were any confrontations or suspicious moves, he'd know.

He had learned a lot of new names thanks to the map as he surveyed every male student, looking for matches to his memory of the boy on the train. The problem was it was necessarily subjective as he couldn't stand each student up against his memory to compare them. He had to make decisions on who could be a match and who was not. For instance, although Cedric met the height criteria, his build was just too thin to be the boy he'd seen. Plus, he seemed a very poor match personality-wise to someone who would stalk a younger student but that was even more subjective.

His best suspects were the Slytherins: Calder Rowle, Marcus Flint, Adrian Pucey, Aldrich Green and Victor Martin. There were also two Ravenclaws: Edwin White and Dalton Clarke plus Thaddeus Podmore of Hufflepuff and last, Cormac McLaggen of his very own Gryffindor house. With how annoying McLaggen was, he would have liked to make him the number one suspect but the fact was he didn't seem the type either. However, he stayed on the list as he couldn't bear to omit the real culprit, he had to find this guy before he did something to Daphne.

He was abruptly brought back to awareness of his surroundings by a remark from Hermione.

"Harry, you shouldn't obsess over that like you are."

He turned with a frown to reiterate, once again, how important this was to him but she spoke again before he could.

"Is all your homework done?"

He relaxed his expression slightly as he could respond positively to that. "Yes."

She raised one eyebrow before she persisted. "And everything is up to your new standard?"

He was about to retort when he had to shut his mouth as he had been thinking that he had rushed through his Potions essay. He'd never get the grade he deserved but he really shouldn't leave any weaknesses in his essay for the greasy bat to pounce on because although Snape had eased up on insults and point deductions, his grading of Harry's work was still merciless. He really ought to go over it again and he wasn't really accomplishing anything on his mission right now as Daphne was safe in her dorm with Tracey. He rolled his eyes at her before putting away what he'd had out and pulling his essay from his bag. She gave him a smug grin and he stifled a sigh as he realized that it didn't really pay to argue with Hermione.

Sami was feeling very introspective as the end of her work day approached. Although she had two patients and an assistant now, she still didn't always have enough work to fill a day. Some days she was consulted by other healers about mental issues in their patients and she was still adjusting to being sought out as an expert now, she was much more accustomed to being ignored and isolated. She wasn't complaining, it was a good turn of events but it still seemed odd to her.

Other than her two patients, the other thing that kept coming back up in her mind was her relationship with Sirius Black. She was self-aware enough now to realize that they were headed towards marriage as the bond forming between them was becoming more and more obvious to her. Her initial feeling of it being too soon to consider moving in with him was so faded that it hardly existed anymore.

She'd always felt she was confident enough that she'd not let some personal relationship matter languish unaddressed but somehow that confidence didn't exist with Sirius. This was the most important relationship of her adult life and she really wanted things to progress between her and Sirius but every time she thought it was time to bring it up, her courage failed her. It was quite possible that between his natural personality and his time in Azkaban that Sirius was not interested in commitment and she was a little concerned about that being the case. She didn't doubt his feelings for her, he was quite open about that, but commitment was a different thing.

She had not been paying much attention to what she was doing so she was a little startled to find herself in the park across from Sirius' home already. She heard some children so she quickly put a notice me not charm on herself so she would not startle anyone when she disappeared from view. The fact that she always came to Sirius' house direct from work emphasized the conundrum she had been contemplating. Did she really need a separate apartment anymore? She spent virtually all of her waking time at St. Mungo's or at Sirius' home as her small apartment wasn't built for entertaining guests.

She did her best to push those thoughts away as she entered the house, she didn't want to trouble Sirius with her concerns, they could wait. As had become his custom, he practically pounced on her as soon as she cleared the entry hall. She returned his greeting kiss with equal enthusiasm as she had only recently thought, Sirius was not one to hide his affection from her.

Until their dinner was nearly done, their interaction had been mainly small talk with a smattering of flirting until he dropped a big question on her. "How is it going with the Longbottoms?"

Well, there it was, it was time to reveal what had her so deep in thought this day. "Not well. As I told you before, I am trying them on the same potion as I used for you after their calming potion withdrawal was complete and their response has not been as favourable as I had hoped. Frank is still much too volatile and anxious and Alice still flutters around her room with an attention span of two or three seconds. Most of my Muggle training requires me to speak and listen to them but Frank does neither and well, Alice, with her attention span I can't really accomplish anything. I am going to have to consider some more creative solutions."

His concern was plain on his face and in his tone. "That's too bad, I miss them, they were good people. I'm sure that if anyone can bring them back, it would be you."

His confidence in her abilities warmed her heart but she was very much afraid that his faith in her was misplaced in this particular case. "They will get my best; I assure you of that. It's just that nothing is going as I had hoped. Frank still has those horrible violent outbursts and I'm starting to think he is stuck in that awful night that they were attacked. He neither listens to me nor has ever spoken. As for Alice, she will whisper the occasional word or two but I can't make out what she is trying to say and she isn't directing it towards me or anyone else for that matter. It's like she is lost in her own mind, just in a less stressful situation than her husband."

She sighed and returned his concerned look. "I'm considering treatments that might change what is going on in their brains. Have you ever heard of psilocybin?"

His blank look was all the answer she needed. She gave him a small smile to soften any blow from his ignorance. "It's a drug derived from mushrooms. Muggle scientists were studying it but too many people used it as a hallucinogen and it got such a bad reputation that they have largely abandoned their research. However, it had shown some promise for improving brain function in certain situations and for treating previously untreatable depression."

She wondered about his sudden grin before he spoke. "Magic mushrooms? Yeah, that I've heard of."

She narrowed her eyes as she asked, "Are you speaking from experience?"

His mock innocent look had her wondering. "Of course not. I only heard about it, that's all."

Despite his joking manner, he seemed sincere so she decided to believe him. "I'm going to try it on Alice first as Frank is already too volatile. In some people it can cause paranoia or panic attacks and Frank certainly doesn't need anything like that."

She let his words and hug comfort her as he tried to reassure her. She felt justified in her decision not to press him about their relationship. She had a very supportive partner already and for now, that was enough.

Dolores Umbridge still felt torn as she approached the site of her appointment. Her first inclination had been to stick with her area of expertise and approach Bones' rival for the Minister of Magic position. As much as she would enjoy reversing her and Bones' current positions, Ogden had kept her at arm's length in all their dealings despite the fact that they were in accord on a lot of things. Of course, there was also the fact that Bones led him in the polls even though she was making no attempt to run in the election. Those facts led her to approaching the Wizengamot route to power and using a family connection even if it might not be quite as solid as she would like.

She stopped and nearly gulped at the size and grandeur of the mansion in front of her and then was startled by a greeting from a house elf that allowed her onto the estate. She felt somewhat demeaned by being met by a lowly house elf but stopped short of considering it a deliberate slight as despite her occasional attempts to attach herself to the Selwyn family, she really didn't know much about how they operated. It could very well be that this is how all visitors were welcomed here; she had no way of knowing.

The little creature led her through a grand hallway then down another hallway to a very impressive door that automatically opened for her as the elf finally popped away. She did her best to appear unruffled as she kept her head high and entered the room to see the very distinguished Lord Selwyn waiting for her, sitting behind a very large desk. She gritted her teeth as she dropped into a curtsy and then greeted him. "Lord Selwyn, you are very gracious to meet with me. I hope to make it well worth your time."

To make her point, she pulled out her collection of files of dirt on people, with the file for Greengrass on top, ready for use and placed it on his desk. She had hoped to impress him with her collection but he didn't even give it a glance as far as she could tell. He responded in a distressingly deadpan voice and only a slight nod of recognition.

"Madam Umbridge."

This was not a good start. It was not much of a greeting at all so she had to make this as convincing as possible.

"Lord Selwyn, I am coming to you during a time that will test the strength of our resolve to preserve our precious magical culture. Dangerous elements are manipulating our Ministry and even our glorious Wizengamot and if we fail to act, things will only become worse! We have been betrayed by supposedly upstanding citizens like Lord Greengrass and Dumbledore, assaulted by newcomers like the despicable Sirius Black…"

He interrupted her planned speech and she was so shocked that she sat there with her mouth hanging open.

"I would think that even a casual observer of the wizarding culture that you claim to wish to protect would know that the Houses of Selwyn and Black are allies."

Her mouth snapped shut as he continued with a distinct tone of derision. Her heart sank as she suddenly realized that she had made a huge blunder.

"Since the Houses of Black and Greengrass are allied as well, I do feel some responsibility to support the House of Greengrass as well. As for you, I have been annoyed by your attempts to attach yourself to my House since you have no basis for considering yourself part of my House and I would very much appreciate it if you would stop doing that."

Now his demeanour had gotten to a full-blown look of contempt as he finished his reply.

"I also consider it the height of hubris for you to approach me after the way you treated my grand-niece and her daughter."

What? She had no idea what he was talking about and it must have shown on her face as he then continued.

"The day that the Lord Black was found innocent, in Diagon Alley near the offices of the Daily Prophet."

She felt the blood fleeing from her face as she realized who he meant. The well-dressed woman and her daughter that had tried to see if she was alright after she had accidently hexed herself in a fit of pique. At the time, she had thought she might regret snapping at them but she'd had no idea of just how much of a debacle that would turn out to be.

His cold voice brought her back to the moment. "Take your files with you when you leave."

She did just that and hurried out from his domain so quickly that she had to pause after passing the gates to regain her breath. Her confidence was shattered but her indignation at the situation she found herself in would not allow her to give up. She would find a way to come back and repay the ones who had done this to her, one way or another.

Draco Malfoy was certain that this would not go the way his mother hoped but he complied with all of her requests anyway. The least he could do is cooperate and attempt to lower her anxiety with his compliance to her wishes. He checked his look in the mirror again and adjusted his dress robes slightly as they seem to have been pulled to the right too much. Even though the end result was a foregone conclusion, he still had to see this through so it was time to stop dithering and go to the floo to greet the Lord Black.

When he arrived, he saw his mother waiting with serene grace and envied her for how she could do that as he felt slightly nauseous despite knowing how this would go. On the other hand, he had seen something flash in her eyes before she schooled her reaction and gave him an approving nod for his efforts. He suppressed a sigh and turned to the floo to try to emulate her demeanour but when it activated, he had to suppress a nervous swallow. He was slightly annoyed with himself to be acting like this when he had no expectations for success and he had no reason to be nervous.

He waited his turn as his mother greeted her cousin and the Lord Black looked like the essence of composure as well, which made him even more annoyed with himself. He was surprised at how informally they greeted each other but then they were family and his mother was in his good graces, unlike him. Therefore, he went with a very formal greeting and made certain to give the Lord Black all due respect with his greetings.

Once they were all seated and served tea by a very inobtrusive house elf, Lord Black got right to the point.

"So, Draco, I was wondering if you have decided if you wish to join the Black family?"

Why was he even bothering to ask? He still played it out as his mother wished though. "Yes, my Lord Black, I do wish to join your House if you would be so kind as to allow it."

He nodded and then asked, "Are you going to pursue any more revenge for what has happened in the past?"

"No, Lord Black. I have had quite enough of schoolboy pranks, bullying or ill-conceived plans for revenge. I plan to keep my head down and get a good education for my future." He didn't add that he couldn't yet truly see a future where he had to work for a living but it was either that or give up entirely and he wasn't quite ready to do that.

"My heir reports that you and he have made peace with each other."

His look was expectant so Draco decided to treat it like a question. "Yes, we talked on the train on the way back to Hogwarts and came to an understanding. I have kept to our agreement."

"In that case, I will accept you into my House. Welcome, Draco Black."

He stared back at Lord Black, completely flabbergasted. He was giving Draco a slight smirk so he wondered if perhaps this were a joke so he glanced at his mother to see her beaming at him and he realized she was taking his statement seriously. However, her face quickly became more serious and she flicked her eyes in her cousin's direction. Oh! He was being rude!

He quickly returned his gaze to the Lord Black and stood to give him a bow as he said, "Thank you, Lord Black. I will do my best to fulfil your expectations for a member of your house."

Lord Black also stood and offered his hand and he shook it while trying to moderate his reaction. He still felt like he was in shock.

Lord Black gestured for him to sit again and once they were both settled, Lord Black spoke again.

"It's obvious you weren't expecting this outcome so I'll tell you a little story about my own time in Hogwarts. In my sixth year, I played a prank on someone that I didn't like and he reacted completely differently than I expected and nearly came to harm. Worse yet, it could have gotten one of my friends in trouble even though he'd had nothing to do with the prank. If things had gone badly, my intentions with the prank would not have mattered. What I did could have gotten more than one person hurt or perhaps even killed."

He paused to shake his head at his past actions before looking back at Draco. "If I can make such a mistake with a deliberate act in my sixth year, I would have to be an incredible hypocrite to condemn a third year for making a bad decision but not deliberately setting anything into motion. I was lucky not to be expelled but the headmaster never considered that for you for a reason."

Fortunately, his mother and Lord Black carried on without him after that, he still had a feeling of unreality that kept him from participating himself. He had been considering going back in his family tree and picking a family from France that would hopefully never know he'd stolen their family name for his own use. It seemed unreal to him that he now had a legitimate family name and such a powerful one at that. He also realized he'd used up all of the luck he could ever reasonably expect, he swore to toe the line and never give the Lord Black a reason to question his decision.

His mood sank as he realized that one thing had not changed at all. Greg was dead and it was still his fault. It was true he never intended to harm or kill Greg but the fact was that he had set things in motion. He and his father had managed to destroy a lot of lives. He had once been proud of his family name and wanted to be like his father. Now, he wanted nothing to do with either of them.

Ron smirked at Harry as he sleepily got ready to go down for breakfast. It was the weekend so there were no classes to worry about so it was especially odd that he had gotten up before his friend. This called for some teasing in Ron's opinion. When it was just him and Harry in the bathroom, he cast a privacy charm at the door and got to it.

"So, were you and Daphne making kissy faces at each so long in your mirrors that you didn't get enough sleep?"

That made his friend become fully awake and his reaction just overcame his resistance and he laughed. Harry gave him a very disgruntled look while he recovered his composure. Harry was doing his best to look offended while he replied.

"We do NOT make kissy faces at each other! We talked!"

"Sure, whatever you say, Harry." He smirked and made his tone as disbelieving as he could, which made Harry frown again.

"You need to get your own girlfriend so you'll leave me alone about mine."

That wiped the smile from his face, he should have known Harry would find a way to turn this back on him. He decided that he could confide in his best mate.

He grimaced at the mirror as he combed his hair, thinking that he might need a haircut soon. "I'm not sure I'm ready. I do like girls but… I don't know… I think I have time…."

Harry turned to give him a serious look before replying.

"You're right, there's no rush, I was just trying to put the subject back on you. I might not have been ready yet myself if I hadn't met Daphne. I mean she…." His friend looked a bit torn as he looked away and he was afraid he'd made this a bit too serious but before he could chime in, his friend continued.

"I can't explain it really. It just seems right with her, you know? I couldn't see myself doing this with any girl but her. I reckon what you ought to do is wait until it feels right." Harry paused to look at him again and asked, "Does that make any sense?"

He nodded back at Harry and responded, "I think you're right. Seriously, I think you two are a special case. I know I resisted for quite a while but I see it clearly now. You and Daphne are right for each other."

His friend blushed but Ron felt no temptation to tease him again.

It was another Monday morning and Amelia had even bigger piles to go through than she ever had as Director of the DMLE. It was very difficult for her to find much that was positive about this job that the Lord Black prat had stuck her with. She was more and more certain that she'd have to find a way to get back at him for this, she should not have to suffer alone.

She heard someone arriving and realized it was time for her meeting with Rufus so she called "Come in!" at the first sound of a knock. He came in immediately and gave her a wry look as she must have looked as frazzled as she felt – and it was still early morning. Damn Sirius Black!

Even before he had settled into the chair, she pleaded, "Please tell me you have some good news." She knew the answer as soon as he looked at her again.

"I don't have any of that, sorry. We have gotten a lot from Malfoy that can remove some of corruption in the Ministry but it's mostly petty stuff. I can't believe some of the concessions he spent money on. It's as if he just wanted to do it to make himself feel important. Our only big case would have been Fudge."

"And the Fudge murder investigation?"

Rufus' grimace made his answer superfluous. "Dead end after dead end. We have plenty of theories and no evidence."

She was thinking that she'd have another headache by the end of this meeting but she looked up again when he spoke once more. "We'll keep trying, do our best."

She gave him her best attempt at a smile. "I know, Rufus. I wasn't trying to criticize. I can't wait to turn over this job to you, I've had enough."

Now he was looking even more hangdog, what the hell?

"I'm going to drop out. I have no name recognition outside the Ministry, nobody knows who the hell I am. The polls barely register me at all, I'd lose to Ogden in a landslide."

Her stomach seemed to be making a concerted effort to fall on the floor. As much as she hated this job, she couldn't let it fall to Ogden of all people!

"Ogden is leading the polls?"

He was giving her a look of disbelief. "You don't know?"

She felt her irritation rise but did her best not to take it out on her long-time friend. She gestured at the piles on her desk as she said, "I'm too busy trying to keep everything going and I have no interest in running! I'm not wasting any time on that rubbish."

From the look on his face, she didn't think she'd like what he said next.

"Of the people who are actually running, he is in the lead by a comfortable margin."

She nearly frowned, could he mean Dumbledore is actually leading the polls? "Who is actually in the lead then?"

He gave her a very direct look as he simply said, "You."

She couldn't stop her frown but tried to soften it by asking, "And Dumbledore?"

"Barely above me. After you and Ogden, hardly anyone shows up at all."

Well, wasn't that just like her luck recently. She cursed silently to herself as she tried do see the way forward that wouldn't include Ogden sitting in this office.

Rufus interrupted her distracted thoughts. "Personally, I think you are the best choice regardless."

She looked down and shut her eyes to control her reaction. She had no idea what to say but he surprised her with what he said next.

"I think this job will go better for you if you had a good assistant, someone to winnow the wheat from the chaff, so to speak."

She looked up feeling a faint glimmer of hope. "You mean replace Umbridge?"

"Exactly. Get someone who actually knows what they're doing." His impish smile made her smile back as he hadn't been a fan of hers either. He might be on the right track; a proper assistant might make this bearable enough to think straight. She wasn't sure of who to consider though, then she thought of one of the older Aurors who had become more interested in administrative functions rather than field work.


He looked pensive but seemed a little dubious when he said, "Perhaps." He looked more upbeat and suggested, "Why not Maggie?"

She couldn't help but grin thinking of her former aide and she had to agree. "She's a gem." Then she gave him a more serious look as she said, "I couldn't deprive you of her, you need the help too."

His smile was gentle as he said, "We both know she can do more here than in the DMLE, she deserves the chance to advance. Besides, she misses you too and I can find someone else. I think I can do better than Watson so I'm not worried."

He gave her a serious enough look that she relented. "Alright, I'll talk to her."

He smirked as he got up to leave. "More importantly, offer her the job."

She shook her head at him with a grin as he left. He was usually such a dour man that he would surprise her sometimes like this and make her feel better. She knew Maggie would be able to take on this mess and let her concentrate on what she really needed to do. She hated the thought to some degree but it would also be a good move politically. Maggie was well liked and a half-blood who didn't put up with any pureblood superiority nonsense. Yes, she definitely had to talk to her.

Tracey had a hard time keeping herself calm as they entered the great hall for breakfast. Daphne was finally ready for her prank on Astoria and it was going to be epic! Even the evening test of the potion that Daphne had done on herself yesterday had been epic. Especially as it had forced Daphne to remain silent and Tracey could talk all she wanted. That had been so much fun! However, her friend Daphne had not enjoyed it quite as much as she had or at all if you took her literally, which Tracey did not.

She'd known that they had to act normal but she was disappointed when Daphne started her normal breakfast routine. It wasn't until she checked down the table to see her sister that she took one of the spare cups and put some juice in it. She slipped in the potion and then after a few moments checked on her sister again. When she continued looking, murmured a spell very quietly and tapped the cup with her wand then she knew the game was afoot.

They both focussed on their breakfasts as even she knew that watching would only endanger the prank by possibly alerting Astoria who was as cunning as any other Slytherin, or at least she usually was. She was glad that when she first heard a squeaking voice from Astoria's direction that she wasn't drinking but she did nearly choke on a piece of bacon. She decided to not risk a mishap so she swallowed and only pretended to focus on her breakfast until this was done. The voice quit suddenly and moments later she heard someone approaching and it took all of her concentration not to burst into laughter.

She glanced toward Daphne and was impressed that she looked completely normal and wondered if she did as she wasn't nearly as good as hiding things as her friend Daphne. Astoria abruptly put her mouth near Daphne's ear and whispered a squeaky "Why?"

Daphne gave her the "ice queen" gaze and whispered back, "Why what?"

"You. Know. What." Astoria's fierce gaze did not match the squeaky voice and Tracey couldn't handle it anymore and had to cover her mouth to muffle her giggles. That earned her a scathing glance from Astoria before she refocussed on her sister.

Daphne spoke softly and dispassionately, "Perhaps you should be more careful about disclosing other people's secrets."

At first Astoria only glared but she eventually whispered, "Make it stop."

"You know this potion as well as well as I do, Astoria. You'll be fine within two hours."

"Two hours?!"

She had spoken louder and several laughs broke out nearby, which made Astoria redden but she glared at her sister even more. She ground out, "I will get revenge," before leaving the great hall in a huff. That might have been more threatening if Astoria's voice hadn't reminded her of a Muggle cartoon that she'd once seen on her grandparent's telly.

She knew Daphne had her own cup prepared for the same attack but she couldn't know for certain that Astoria would use the same method. What if she came up with a more creative option? Then she saw Snape glaring in their direction and focussed on her breakfast for real. She didn't want to be caught in any crossfire. Daphne had picked a Saturday for the prank so at least Astoria didn't have class; it could have been worse.

Hermione wasn't quite sure what was happening at the Slytherin table that morning. She'd heard a very high-pitched voice and some laughter but she wasn't sure what had happened. It appeared that Astoria was angry with her sister and she wondered if there'd been a prank but that seemed unlikely within Slytherin house or at least a public prank would be. Who knows what might go on in their common room or dormitories, she had no idea about that.

She looked to Harry and he looked as puzzled as she felt. She quietly asked, "So you have no idea what that was about?"

Harry shook his head as he muttered, "No idea." His eyes finally looked away from Daphne to regard her as he added, "I guess I'll have to ask her later."

With it being a Saturday, they were not in a hurry to finish breakfast but she began to feel restless as even Ron's appetite had been satisfied by then. She was pondering which subject's homework to work on first when she noticed Harry perk up and his attention was now in a different direction than before.

She glanced the way he was looking but she didn't see anything special so she asked, "What is so interesting?"

"Luna is talking with some classmates at the Ravenclaw table. I think I'll check on her."

She had found the younger Ravenclaw to be a bit spacey but she had felt bad about the bullying she had apparently been going through so she decided to follow her friend and she noticed that Ron tagged along as well although Neville didn't as he was talking to Dean about something. She found it reassuring how much more social Neville was becoming, he'd been too quiet before in her opinion.

Harry had reached Luna and given her a friendly greeting before she reached the table. She tried to greet the girl warmly as she seemed a bit uncertain about her by the way she was looking at her. Her greeting to Ron was slightly reserved and Ron had a slight blush going. Since that was an improvement in Luna's mood towards Ron, she assumed he must have apologized somewhere in between the two meetings that she had been part of.

Her focus returned to Harry and Luna as she was telling him how Cho Chang and Marietta Edgecombe had returned the items that had been stolen by the Nargles. She couldn't see the look Harry gave them but she certainly saw their reactions. Marietta looked like she wanted to disappear and stared at the table while Cho blushed and fidgeted, not looking at them either. She added her glare to the mix as she was not impressed that they'd let a childlike member of their house believe what was convenient for them. When they left, she could see from Harry's face that he felt the same way but now she knew why those two were getting detentions, it served them right.

He hadn't been paying attention to the chatter beyond his group when he became aware of a very strange and hilarious voice. Was some first year acting out? He identified her just before she left her spot at the table as the younger sister of his target. She stormed over to the object of his desires and they had a mostly quiet disagreement.

If the little Greengrass was correct that her big sister had pranked her, then she must have used a switching spell like he'd tried to do as he would have noticed if she came over nearer where he sat. Was whatever she had done to defeat switching spells on her cup been to prevent pranks? In one way that would make him furious but, in another way, it was somewhat reassuring. He had assumed that her precaution had been protection from him, so she might not be taking precautions specifically against him after all. On the other hand, suddenly randomizing her train compartment had to have been aimed at him.

He had another plan and all it took is one unguarded moment to work. He wouldn't rush it though; he'd probably only get one shot at this plan so he wanted it to be as well-prepared and untraceable as possible. She'd be his sooner or later, he could be patient and he still felt that she was worth the bother.

Tiberius Ogden waited in his study for his next appointment. He was still uncertain how he should react to her most likely reason for seeing him. Although he doubted all of her contacts were still active, she might have a lot of Ministry dirt and might have a contact or two yet that might be helpful. He was not in dire need of her assistance as he was well ahead in the polls of everyone running and he'd heard that Scrimgeour was going to drop out.

On the other hand, she had a lot of Ministry experience and could be useful once he took the office of Minister, that was probably worth it to keep her around all by itself. Either way, it cost him nothing to hear her out so this meeting would be worth his time. He pretended to be busy when he heard them approaching, he'd sent his house elf to meet her knowing that she'd feel put down by that. He wasn't going to pass up a chance to put her off her game, he always wanted the advantage in whatever he did.

He shouted a deliberately disinterested "Come in!" when he heard his elf's knock on the door. He watched Umbridge in his peripheral vision as she came in uncertainly and finally sat down with a stack of folders held on her lap. He hid a smile as his apparent disinterest and how she'd been received was chipping away at her confidence, this was starting out very well. He put the scroll aside that he'd been pretending to read and asked with some feigned impatience, "Yes?"

A look of disappointment was on her face and he chuckled internally at how easy she was to read. She apparently had no experience at all with Occlumency, a grave error on her part if she really wanted to play at politics in his view. He began to wonder if this was a waste of this time after all when she finally seemed to rally her courage and she spoke.

"Greetings, Lord Ogden." She gave him a bow of her head rather than a curtsy but she was offering enough deference not to get herself thrown out. "I am here to offer my assistance in taking your rightful place of leadership to lead the magical world back on to the proper path. I have years of Ministry experience and I have all of information that I have gathered about enemies of the old ways." She patted her collection of folders and gave him a hopeful look.

She was offering what he had felt was her value at least so she wasn't being a complete fool. She was desperate and uncertain enough to be easily manipulated so he decided to get a free sample to help him judge her worth. "What sort of information are you offering?"

She eagerly removed the top folder from her pile and placed it proudly on his desk in front of him. He hid his disappointment as he read 'Greengrass' on the top of the folder. The Greengrasses were not his main opponent but Lord Greengrass was allied to his main foe so it might prove helpful. He pretended to be unimpressed as the opened the folder and looked at the contents.

He was truly disappointed to see it was rather disorganized collection of pieces of parchment. However, given her propensity to lead with what she perceived to be her best value, he lifted the top parchment to read. Her missive started with obvious facts that everyone knew but then she recycled an old rumour about the family that he knew to be untrue. Perhaps his sole compensation for this visit was to enjoy her humiliation when he threw her out as he had heard had happened when she approached Lord Selwyn.

Then she had some facts about collaboration between Greengrass and Dumbledore and although he doubted it was all true given what he'd heard of disagreements about the running of Hogwarts, there were a few potentially interesting facts here. Making a hasty decision could be a mistake so he decided to ponder his options instead of reading further. Ultimately, he decided that having her under his control was worth something but her value was not as great as she would most likely think.

He offered her an affirmative nod that brought a smile to her face and he watched her happiness fade as he offered her about half of what she'd been earning with the Ministry. Her faked enthusiasm as she accepted amused him. Selwyn must have crushed her normal bravado as she'd not sought to get more. He arranged for her to start the next day and asked for the rest of her folders, which she eagerly supplied. The Black file was distressingly thin and he wished he'd offered her even less but time would tell. He'd had less promising investments pay off for him so he wouldn't give up on her this soon.

Harry had his bed's curtains pulled and silenced before he took out his mirror and said, "Daphne". He didn't have to wait long for her smiling face to appear and he couldn't help but return a face-splitting grin of his own. He was very surprised when she blew him a kiss and then she laughed at his reaction and although he pretended to huff in annoyance, he laughed along with her. When they calmed down, he asked, "What was that for?"

She smirked as she replied, "Because I wanted to?" He could tell she was joking so he shook his head at her and after a chuckle, she replied again. "You told me Ron accused us of making kissy faces at each other so I decided to give it a try." Harry rolled his eyes at her but he laughed again when she did.

Harry leaned in and got more serious as he asked, "What was going on this morning? Between you and Astoria, I mean." He saw a hint of the ice queen mask before she replied and he wondered why.

"It was a sister thing; I was pointing out that she'd done something I didn't appreciate."

He pondered that for a moment and decided that he wouldn't get anything more out of her than that so he decided to drop it as 'family business'. "That was a bit public though, people noticed."

She grimaced before replying. "Yeah, I wished it had been more private but my opportunity for the prank only existed in the great hall. Professor Snape wasn't pleased but he didn't say anything. I don't plan to do anything more, unless Tori makes more trouble, that is. I'll keep it as private as possible."

Feeling that the subject was exhausted, he changed the subject. "So, how was your day?"

Daphne's grin grew and then she dreamily said, "I have the best boyfriend."

Harry blushed as she gave him a fond look. It might be a bit embarrassing but he was feeling so warm that he might need to learn a cooling charm.

Sami was very surprised that she'd nearly made it all the way to the kitchen before Sirius greeted her and although he tried to project the usual enthusiasm, she could tell it was faked. Once they had started seeing each other as a couple, she quickly become aware of the fact that she'd fallen for man who had raised deflection and evasion of responsibility to an art form. She asked what was wrong and she could tell from his mannerisms that he was preparing to deny any issue so she gave him her you-can't-fool-me look and it saved time as he faltered to a stop.

He huffed out a sigh of resignation and took a somewhat crumpled piece of parchment from a pocket and handed it to her. She smoothed it out and read something that hardly seemed daunting to her. It was a polite, formal invitation to dinner to him and a 'plus one' from acting Minister of Magic Amelia Bones. Since he knew her from his Auror days and he was well versed in the etiquette expected at a dinner like this, she failed to see a problem.

She gave him a quizzical look and asked, "So?"

He gave her an incredulous look and demanded, "So? So, the last look she gave me could have killed me if looks could to that! She's going to take revenge!"

He started pacing around the kitchen and acted like he wanted to tear his hair out. She rolled her eyes and tried to use her professional, calming voice. "Amelia Bones has spent the entirety of her working life upholding the law so she is not going to lure you into a trap. She wouldn't do anything illegal, especially to someone as prominent as the Lord Black. She also included a 'plus one' so I can be there."

He still looked stressed so she suppressed a sigh and moved to take his hand and stare into his eyes. "I'll be there to protect you from the big, bad acting Minister of Magic."

For a moment, he looked at her like he couldn't believe what he'd heard and then a smile began to pull at his lips and he started to chuckle and then he abruptly pulled her into a hug that prevented her from seeing his face anymore. She wasn't too worried about his mood as she seemed to have broken though his desperation so she concentrated on hugging him back and helping him that way.

"Merlin, I'm so lucky to have you, Sami. I was being ridiculous, wasn't I?"

She pulled back to look him in the eye and declared, "Yes, you were." She smirked at him and then added, "But I love you anyway."

She gave him a kiss and he suddenly escalated it to where she almost forgot what they'd been doing. She actually had to catch her breath as he thanked her again, gave her a kiss to her temple and let her go. She gave him an affectionate smile but before she could say anything, Kreacher interrupted.

"Dinner is ready. Mistress, the laundry is done and put away."

She took a moment to adjust to the new conversation and remembered that Kreacher had volunteered to catch her up on her laundry that she'd not had time to do. She gave him a smile as she said, "Thank you, Kreacher." Then she paused in thought as she'd brought her laundry to him so how did he know where to put it?

"Where did you put the laundry?"

"Kreacher put it in Mistress' wardrobe in the master bedroom."

She didn't have a wardrobe nor a 'master' bedroom so she gave Sirius a suspicious look and he looked slightly abashed. She narrowed her eyes and asked, "What did you do?"

Sirius quickly threw up his hands and said, "It wasn't my idea."

Immediately after that, Kreacher spoke. "Did Kreacher do wrong?"

She looked between a concerned house elf and a hopeful-looking Sirius. Since Sirius had already deflected responsibility, she spoke to Kreacher. "Was it your idea to put my clean laundry here?"

Kreacher nodded emphatically and said, "Mistress needs to be with family. Mistress should stay here."

She pursed her lips and her eyes went back to Sirius who was giving her his puppy-dog eyes pleading for her to go along with it. She had been thinking about giving up her small apartment that she'd never liked that much and now she hardly ever spent much time there either.

She smirked at Sirius and his eyes lit up. She continued to look at Sirius but spoke up for the house elf's benefit. "You did well, Kreacher. I'll stay here."